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DVD: Coronation Street Secrets (2004)
Review Rating:   Standard  
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Morningstar/CBC/Granada International

Catalog #:
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1 (NTSC)

November 23, 2004



Genre: Documentary/TV  

Collection of documentary TV specials on the long-running British soap opera.




Directed by:

Screenplay by: (none credited)
Music by: (none credited)
Produced by: Jon Woods

Jean Alexander, Richard Arnold, Tina Baker, Lee Boardman, Brian Capron, Jane Danson, Elizabeth Dawn, Betty Driver, Eugene Ferguson, Kate Ford, Chris Gascoyne, Julie Goodyear, and many others.

Film Length: 585 mins Process/Ratio: 1.78:1
Colour Anamorphic DVD: Partial
Languages:  Dolby English Stereo
Special Features :  

Booklet with historical notes by www.corrie.net 's Mike Plowman.

Comments :

Perhaps the biggest quandary for soap opera fans is how to release a series on DVD when there's almost 45 years worth of episodes in the vaults. ABC has already tested the waters by releasing a more recent season of General Hospital on disc, but the cost and size of so much material is just plain impractical for the average fan. The question, then, is whether it's possible to assemble a worthy tribute that satisfies fans by going beyond mere fanzine intrigue, and rehashing the familiar.

Many soaps have actors that have stayed with a show for decades (it's a steady gig, pays off the mortgage, and gets the kiddies through graduate school), and while many American soaps have often pushed older characters to the sidelines in favor of action/intrigue storylines with prettier, younger brats fresh from modeling agencies, Coronation Street has been more respectful to its diverse and populous cast.

During the Eighties, some truly colourful villains were introduced, and while the ratings paid off extremely well, the producers also managed to keep a balance for its multi-generation audience. The proof of the show's success is heavily evidenced by the actors who grew up watching and later appearing in Coronation Street years later.

One of Britain 's most popular exports, the soap's success is traced via 13 (!) 45 to 49-minute documentary specials with cast members, writers, producers, press officers, pop culture writers, and soap fans (which means all of the aforementioned). The specials' producers have raided the Granada archives and traced a multitude of events and subjects and grouped them into specific episodes (see bottom, with differing aspect ratios).

For fans, the set's a divine treat of witty, lively interviews backed by multimedia goodies; for novices, it's a smart intro into the world of a soap opera with a complicated history of ongoing relationships between families, foes, and fractured marriages. To apply the same approach on DVD for an American soap would be a toughie, as few series maintain a large faction of veteran characters with active storylines; there's also a significant cultural difference between a British working class community and the more upscale, escapist worlds of U.S. soaps (which in the past has indulged in aliens visitations, the supernatural, warring twins, and routine kidnappings).

This 4-disc set covers a lot of ground, and each episode has been edited into quarter chunks for ad breaks. The vintage footage looks much better than expected (spanning black & white kinescopes, grainy film footage for exterior scenes, and old, pastel colour tube cameras), and there's some behind-the-scenes material from recent tapings showing off the various detailed exterior and interior sets.

While a 40 th Anniversary TV special back in 2000 (not included in this set) coupled the show's premiere episode with superb interviews featuring the show's creators and chief talent, this beefy set is still an excellent nostalgia trip for fans, and richly detailed primer for those new to this iconic show.

This set includes the following:

"Barmaids" (48:19), "Love Cheats" (47:56), "Hunks" (47:38), "Weddings" (48:14), "Deaths" (48:25), "In-Laws & Outlaws" (4:58), "Double Acts" (48:07), "Villains" (47:33), "The Street Undressed" (47:59), "Tracy Barlow Exposed" (48:08), "When Karen Met Steve" (48:21), "Peter Barlow Exposed" (48:14), and "Richard Hillman Exposed" (48:58).

© 2004 Mark R. Hasan

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